Habitat utilisation by urban foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and the implications for rabies control

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JournalMammalia
DatePublished - 1997
Issue number4
Volume61
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)497-510
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the principal vector of rabies in Western Europe, and the high density of foxes in many British cities is therefore of particular concern. Contingency plans for the control of rabies in urban areas in Britain are focused on the use of poison baits to control the fox population, but field trials have so far achieved bait uptake rates which fall far short of those required. It is possible that greater uptake rates and hence improved efficiency of control could be achieved by targeting the baits more effectively towards preferred fox habitats. To help move towards this goal, we quantified the habitat preferences of urban foxes living in Bristol, England using compositional analysis. Time spent and distance travelled by individuals within different habitats, as revealed by radio tracking, were used as indicators of habitat preference during bouts of activity, and the frequency of lying-up sites was used as an indicator of habitat preference during periods of day rime inactivity. Five habitat groupings were considered in the analysis: (1) back gardens, (2) front gardens and common gardens, (3) playing fields, parklands, churchyards and cemeteries, (4) roads, verges, shops and commercial centres, and (5) woodlands, rough ground and allotment gardens. Back gardens, woodland, rough ground and allotment gardens were the most heavily used habitats in terms of both time spent and distance moved by foxes. These habitats were also most favoured for day-time lying-up sites. The results are discussed with reference to their potential implications for bait uptake and rabies control.

    Research areas

  • POPULATION, PREFERENCE, EDINBURGH, PATTERN, BRITAIN, SPREAD, MODEL, CITY

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